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May 12, 2005

Single-Mother Homes Do Not Cause Social Problems

I've written before about how fatherlessness statistics blame single-mother homes for all sorts of social ills. I've debunked those statistics on my web site page, Myths and Facts About Fatherlessness. From Barry at Alas, I have found that Stephanie Coontz has done her own work debunking the claim that single mother homes cause all sort of social ills. Below is an excerpt.

From an op-ed by Stephanie Coontz in the LA Times: OurKids Are Not Doomed

Tying such dire predictions of social decay to divorce and single motherhood seemed credible in the 1970s and 1980s. But a funny thing happened in the 1990s: Almost every negative social trend tracked by the census, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Justice declined.

Teen birthrates fell by 30% between 1991 and 2002. The number of violent crimes in schools was halved between 1992 and 2002. Teen homicide rates dropped to their lowest level since 1966. Teen suicides decreased by 25%, and drug abuse, binge drinking and smoking all fell.

Yet the number of couples living together unmarried increased by more than 70% over the decade; the population at large increased by only 13% during this period. Gay and lesbian parenting became more common. The number of families headed by single mothers rose five times faster than the number of married-couple families.

Obviously, attributing the improvements of the 1990s to the continued increases in families headed by single moms is as absurd as blaming all the social ills of the 1980s on divorce.

Single parenthood does increase the risk that teens will get into trouble. But so do poverty, parental conflict, frequent school relocation, parental substance abuse and even an emotionally distant relationship with married parents.

Studies show that the majority of teens who exhibit serious behavior problems have five or more separate risk factors in their lives.

As Barry said, read the whole thing.

Posted on May 12, 2005 at 08:27 AM | Permalink


I don't think it's rocket science that one good strong parent is a whole lot better for a child than two parents who are distant or aren't as involved. Whether that one parent is a mother or father seems to not be that relevant. Of course, being a guy, I'm attracted to the "fathers matter" discourse, because I see too much in the media portraying fathers as incidental at best.

Posted by: Scarbo at May 12, 2005 10:04:52 AM

It's not a myth, it's a fact.

Posted by: Masculiste at May 12, 2005 3:32:40 PM

There are too many variables in cases like these.

Don't forget that many homes are single parent due to the death of a parent, and that is far more devastating in every way than divorce.

Posted by: kohoutekdriver8 at May 12, 2005 4:31:34 PM

Of course there are other variables. If the parents are constantly fighting, the child(ren) will probaby become more agressive and problematic than living with one parent and living in a more stable atmostphere.

Posted by: Nina at Sep 15, 2005 3:46:59 PM


"Many studies have shown that children living in a single-parent family tend to do worse academically and receive less intellectual stimulation than children living with married parents..."When looking at children's test scores, we find that children who live with a single mom and a grandparent fare just as well as children living with married parents," says Rachel Dunifon, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell. "These findings contradict the idea that living with two married parents is the primary situation in which children can thrive."

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Dunifon found that living with a single mother is linked to significant declines in academic achievement."

Posted by: Mena at Feb 12, 2006 4:19:00 PM